By no means do I consider myself an expert in church planting. I'm stumbling through this thing trying to keep from hurting too many people (or myself) in the process, just trying to be faithful to what I hear God calling me/us/the Church to. But Dustin (D-Ball!!) asked me to do this interview for him for seminary. So...
What types of tasks are involved in church planting?
Just about everything- web design and admin, speaking, counseling, organization and administration including setting up non-profits, finance, motivation, teaching and preaching... starting with a blank slate is a unique challenge, in that what most church communities have defined and up and running and only needs maintenance and the occasional redesign/tweak, the church panter has to start, to begin ex nihilo, as it were. A very different skill set between those who start things and those who maintain/change them later. But that's really the next question...
What skills are needed to do church planting well?
First and foremost the ability to depend on God, because not a lot else will be stable/sure in the process... so prayer and more prayer.
Beyond that... All of the things that large churches can afford to parcel out to specialists, the church planter must be a good generalist at. Either that, or he/she must have a team that balances strengths and weaknesses and has within it all the necessary skills and elements. The problem is, it's pretty hard to tell whether this is the case until you are a year or two down the road. How do you know what you will need unless you have done this before? As I said, starting something is very different from working in an established context.
I'm actually coming to see that there's more than temperment here... I think many church planters have a problem in large church staff settings and leave to pioneer new things not just because they feel philosophically compelled to do so, but because they recognize that a life of specialization simply doesn't suit them. They long (perhaps unconsciously) to exercise pastoral gifting more broadly than one can do in a large church setting and so find themselves pursuing paths/situations where they can do so.
The question is, if what they plant becomes big, and they find themselves a few years down the road discussing specialization with a growing staff/elder board, will they be content? (This presupposes that we're not talking about a "mega-plant" where a complete staff with a nest-egg of $250,000 is airdropped into an area and told to 'start a church.' Different scene...)
One of the skills I'm wishing I had developed earlier in this thing is The skill to not depend on your skills :)
I think too often, we know the things we do well, and out of a desire to let other do what they (already) do well, we focus on our stengths and allow others to do the same.
Only problem is, no one really develops new competencies. Which may be fine in a big environment where (as I said) specialization is de rigeur, but in a church plant?
One thing I have done, but probably not enough, is allow other people to teach. It's my thing... and though from the beginning I've let others teach, I'm realizing it hasn't been enough. Over the last 2 1/2 years, it's been about 75% me and 25% others. After thinking this through, I laid out next year and adjusted to about 66% me.
My hope is that this will help us better reach the goal of developing others... the way you get new/better leaders? Let people lead, of course. I'm coming to see that most of "elder development" is on-the-job-training of those who have shepherd's hearts and have begun to exercise that.
What are the most frustrating and fulfilling aspects of your ministry?
You know, seeing life change is amazingly fulfilling. Seeing people move closer towards God and one another. Seeing people come who have been experiencing a deep sense of alienation in their lives, watching them be folded into community, and seeing healing take place. Watching people who have no faith in Jesus develop faith in Jesus, watching people struggle with doubt and questions and find answers...
Frustrating? Church planting is a lot less frustrating than pastoring in an established community, that's for sure. Less politics, less negative inertia, less of the crap that drives pastors to drink. Not that there aren't some frustrating things. We do ministry on the cheap. We have no facility, so finding spaces to do a growing number of community thigs is always a challenge. We have a lot of tourists come through. I love that we are not trying to create an institution, but I do feel a bit... adrift? I guess I mean by that- a church plant is ephemeral. No physical, geographic location. If everyone decided to do something different, it all disappears. It can lead to a bit of angst, I think...
It's wonderful not to have the weight of a large staff on my shoulders- both the management and financial aspects of that. But doing all the little things that have to be taken care of until someone steps up to do them can be a bit draining.
What advice would you give to someone beginning to train for church planting?
Get a degree in something else! Have a trade. I think my standard advice from here on out to young men and women who want to pursue pastoral ministry will be to get a BA/BS in something they can make some money at, and then pursue a master's in theology when they can. I think seminary is vital (another topic), but having a BA in Bible and a Master's in theology has meant that as I church plant, my options for supporting my family have been limited. If only I had a trade, like making tents or something, I'd feel a lot more freedom in this thing.
Pt 2 tomorrow